Live-tweeting the Legislature

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by Erica Mauter | May 6, 2009 • The folks at The Uptake recently launched a Minnesota-only Twitter account, @uptakemn. On this account they’ve been tweeting the goings-on of the Minesota State House and State Senate.

Y’all know what live-tweeting looks like, right? Rapid-fire tweets on a topic, probably with a hashtag, which often lack a lot of the important context because you only have so many characters and your thumbs/fingers can’t move that fast. It’s generally only interesting to the small percentage of your followers who are also in the room with you or are deeply interested in the topic and would have been there themselves were it not for a conflict. I’ve live-tweeted my fair share of events, even though I know all of these things. I’ve witnessed the live-tweeting from the other end, to varying degrees of annoyance.

Let me say this: It’s frickin’ delightful to read the @uptakemn tweets of the proceedings in the legislature. Here’s why.

1. This gives me a top level view of what’s being discussed, what’s contentious, and the main people and arguments in favor or in opposition to the issues at hand. That’s a lot more knowledge than most people have of what’s happening in the legislature.

2. The legislature is opening up how they communicate their proceedings to the public. This activity takes advantage of those tools to amplify the message. I might not be able to sit and watch the video stream all day, but Twitter is something I track throughout the day so I see the tweets as they come in. If you’re not on Twitter, The Uptake has various liveblogs going at any given time that the tweets feed to, so you can scroll through the ongoing or archived conversation for the House or the Senate. Or you can read the uptakemn tweets by RSS. Or you can be a part of the action by tweeting replies to theuptake or uptakemn or by using the #mnleg hashtag as they are aggregating and displaying these tweets at various places on the theuptake.org.

The Uptake is looking for people to help with this coverage. You don’t even have to be at the capitol. All you have to do is sign up for a shift (8am-12pm/12pm-4pm/4pm-8pm, roughly, depending on the schedule), watch the video (from the comfort of your home, office, or cube) and tweet what you see. Shifts are also flexible. The last day of the current session is May 18. Email jennifer.whigham@theuptake.org if you’d like to help.

There are other ways to consume the legislature as well. The House has an Electronic Notifications and Podcasts and News and Information sections on its main page with links to email updates, RSS feeds for a variety of information, and audio from standing committee meetings. The Senate has an Information & Publications section on its main page that includes email lists and RSS feeds for member press releases as well as an audio and video archive. Both houses get the info out there, but the House is making it easier with more RSS feeds.

And, as always, if you appreciate what The Uptake is doing, toss ‘em a few bucks (here or here).

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